Not with a bang but a whimper


This is the way that the story ends: Not with a bang but a whimper. Today was LibDem day in the Daily Telegraph revelations about the abuse of MP expenses. Do we emerge stain-free? No we do not. But overall the scale of inappropriate expenditure seems to be an order of magnitude less than in some of the other parties. And I remain fiercely proud that none of the seven LibDem MPs who represent commuter constituencies has a second home at taxpayer expense - in marked contrast to all the Conservative and Labour MPs representing commuter constituencies in Hertfordshire.

 

But in absolute terms it does not matter whether it is a packet of hobnobs or a trouser press, or a moat or chandelier, any misuse of an expense account should be come down upon like a ton of bricks. When I ran large teams at director level in both the public and private sectors, I used to say to my staff that if I wanted to get rid of them, I would immediately examine their expense claims. I also used to say that every taxi journey was made on the back of some poor bloke up a telegraph pole or down a hole. Having an expense account is a real privilege.

Personally I always rode tube and bus to get round London - almost invariably getting places faster than colleagues who did use taxis. I was hugely impressed at Transport for London by the way that everyone from Commissioner downwards used their own product. I remember once seeing Tim O'Toole, then Managing Director of London Underground, running late through the rain on the South Bank to catch the Bakerloo line to go to an official lunch at the American Ambassador's residence in the middle of Regent's Park - itself a long walk from the nearest tube station.

On a separate occasion when I was at BT, I took part in a bilateral meeting on telecoms issues in Berlin. Civil servants and industry representatives from both countries took part. On the aircraft that flew out of London, the civil service contingent all sat at taxpayer expense in business class at the front of the plane. The industry people including myself - all from different companies - all sat in economy at the back of the plane. Some lessons to ponder there about economy and frugality - which is how all uses of taxpayer money must be approached, whether by Parliamentarians or any other public servants. PS "This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper" - T.S. Eliot - The Hollow Men


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